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RDCC proposes its own standards for remodeling ordinance

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 by Kimberly Reeves

The Residential Design and Compatibility Commission, given the chance, passed its own list of recommendations for the proposed remodeling ordinance.

The original remodeling ordinance rewrite has been pending since Council requested it at the end of 2007. The intention, with the assistance of neighborhood associations, the Real Estate Council of Austin and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, was to provide clear delineation between a home remodel versus a home rebuild versus new home construction.

What was apparent from the discussion last week was some members of the commission would prefer a single reviewer who is conversant in every aspect of code. That may or may not be a reasonable expectation. For instance, would a reviewer looking at the adjustment of a foundation actually consider how that adjustment might also adjust the height of a home? It’s not a guarantee.

The RDCC deals in minutiae of construction in most of the cases, so it is no surprise the group was focused on the smaller elements of the remodeling ordinance. Here are the recommendations the commission offered:

·       Review time of applications should be extended to be between 7 and 14 days. The time frame would be consistent with other aspects of the code;

·       A lengthy discussion of what should be considered part of the “50 percent part of the exterior” of the structure when it comes to remodeling. That appears to include window openings by RDCC standards. The RDCC landed on the surface area square footage of the exterior walls;

·       Discussed how much could be stripped from the base structure of a building and still be considered a remodel. The commission appeared to settle on stripping the building down to the studs, as long as the original dimensions of the building’s wall was maintained; and

·       Talked about and then appeared to abandon the discussion of requiring that remodeling needed to meet the “tent” height standard of the McMansions ordinance for mass and height. Not all buildings, however, are required to comply with the ordinance, so the suggestion was abandoned.

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